Sunday, May 22, 2011

Top iPad Photography Apps and Tools

Now that I've been making an effort to use the Apple iPad2 for all things photography a few weeks, I thought I'd share some thoughts about what the iPad brings to the table for photographers and point out some gaps that I hope iOS developers will be able to fill.  

Camera Bag
The iPad's portability and screen size make it a device that can be carried easily in a camera bag.  Several new bags have reached the market with a compartment just for a tablet device.  I had high hopes for the Tamrac Rally 5 bag, but it had several issues that led me to return it the day it arrived from Amazon.  The deal breaker for me is the way cover flap does not completely cover the top of the bag, inviting dust and rain into the main compartment.  The loud Velcro closure and tendency to roll over are also big negatives for me.

I settled on the the Think Tank Urban Disguise 5 V2.0 for my daily bag and really love it.  In addition to an iPad (or 15-inch laptop), it will hold a Nikon D700 with 180mm lens, four more lenses and has pockets and pouches I'm still discovering.  The only danger loading it with more gear than you are willing to carry.

I consider the Apple Camera Connection Kit essential.  You get an SD card reader and a way to connect directly to a DSLR camera via USB cable.  Don't get too excited... this does not mean shooting tethered.  But it does mean you can transfer RAW files to the iPad and examine pictures on its larger screen.  On my wish list is a means to transfer pictures from the DSLR as they are shot.  A good USB 2.0 A Male to Micro B cable is required to connect to a DSLR.  For more information, see this review by Jeremy Horwitz.

The Apple Digital AV Adapter steps up iPad HD output for presentation on big screens via HDMI.  I recommend getting both HDMI and HDMI to DVI nine foot cables.  Amazon Basics has good value for most cables. 

When you need more control than your fingertip for sketching, the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Stylus works the best of all I've tried.

The Apple Wireless Keyboard is an excellent companion for heads down data entry.

Photography Apps
For quick touch ups, the Adobe Photoshop Express (free) with the Adobe Camera Pack ($4.99 in-app purchase) is about as good as it gets for a tablet or phone.  The Camera Pack adds much needed noise reduction and sharpening.  Photoshop cloud storage is limited, but handy.  Adobe's Color Lava is interesting, but will appeal more to designers than photographers.  Adobe's Nav seems to be a solutions in search of a problem, but it is pretty cool.  It would be nice if the app matured into being more like a Wacom tablet.

On the cloud storage and sharing front apps from Photobucket and Flickr are natural choices.  However, Dropbox has become a defacto standard integrated with growing number of photography applications.  Entry level accounts are free, so it does not hurt to explore all options.

It requires a camera tethered to a laptop or desktop, but DSLR Remote and DSLR Remote Pro HD from OnOne can control a camera remotely from an iPhone or iPad.  This novel and rather clumsy arrangement has some value for self portraits and shooting wildlife from an indoor blind, but isn't something you'd bother with very often unless you're Cindy Sherman.  However, should the need arise, the intervalometer feature is worth the cost of the application.

The Photographers' Ephemeris is an excellent aid for planning landscape shoots and recording locations.  The app is perfectly usable on an iPhone.  Running on an iPad, the extra screen size is welcome.

Another handy planning tool is Simple DOF Calculator (depth of field), which runs equally as well on the iPhone.

Impression is handy for adding a watermark to pictures directly from an iPad or iPhone. 

Easy Release means you always have model and property releases handy and improves over the paper equivalent by emailing PDF copies to all concerned.

Perhaps the most obvious use of the iPad for photographers is to use it in place of a conventional print book portfolio.  I had a look at six of the most popular portfolio applications, but settled on Portfolio because it was the only one with all the features I considered essential, like zooming, music, side-by-side comparisons, VGA support and loading photos from the cloud (via DropBox).  Pad Folio is a solid runner up.  A review in Professional Photographer Magazine compares several competing products.

Productivity Apps
To make quick notes and sketches, Adobe Ideas and Penultimate serve similar, yet different purposes.  Ideas is outstanding for marking up photos, where Penultimate functions better as a sketchbook.  Keynote, the iPad PowerPoint viewer and editor, could easily serve as a portfolio tool.  

If you drag the PDF version of camera and software manuals, not to mention Lightroom Slideshows, onto iTunes, they become available in iBooks.  I found some old photography annuals, like "Pictorial Photography in America 1920", available free in the iBooks store that are a joy to read on the iPad.  Digital editions of Lenswork Portable Edition and a few other photo magazines have extra content well worth investigating.

I'd love to hear from anyone who is using an iPad in any way for photography.


benjamin gandhi-shepard said...

Preston! Very interesting. I'm still without an iPad, and probably will be for a while. But it's cool to see how the iPad works as a photography resource. Thanks for the write up and product reviews.

Preston Page said...

Ben, I think the iPad has a future as a tool for photographers, but there isn't really a single killer application here that boosts it beyond a cool novelty. Apps like TPE, DSLR Remote and Easy Release work well on the much more portable iPhone.
The killer pro photography app, if it ever appears, is going to be direct tethering via USB.

benjamin gandhi-shepard said...

True. Developers are trying to capitalize off of the cheap easy apps right now.

This crap app phase will end eventually. And then developers will be forced to make apps that actually solve users problems.

Preston Page said...

Yeah, right now, most of the development energy seems to be focused on building a better inappropriate noise app :)